Restless legs syndrome

It is a feeling of discomfort in the legs that appears at night and greatly disturbs sleep.

What is it

Restless legs syndrome is a nervous disorder, classified among the sleep disorders, characterized by discomfort in the legs such as to cause an irrepressible need to move them, at night when lying down, even if you are terribly tired.

In this way, those who suffer from it cannot rest due to the frequent movements of the lower limbs and, in the most severe forms, greatly reduce the quality of life.

How frequent is it

About 5 to 10 percent of the population suffers from it. It most frequently affects women who are more likely to suffer from it during pregnancy and in case of anemia.


The main symptom is the feeling of “discomfort” of the legs that pushes you to move them continuously to find a position in which they do not bother.

It usually involves the lower leg and only occasionally the upper part or even the feet and/or arms.

Such sensations usually occur shortly after going to bed, although it can sometimes appear during the day, and can last up to an hour or longer.

Symptoms can therefore be:

  • abnormal and not well identified sensation in the legs;
  • tingling or discomfort in the legs relieved by movement;
  • irresistible urge to move your legs;
  • persistent leg movements during sleep;
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night.


Currently the cause has not yet been clarified. The disorder is however more frequent in the presence of: – peripheral neuropathy – chronic kidney disease – Parkinson’s disease – in iron deficiency – while taking certain medications. There is also a hereditary form.


Lack of rest affects performance during the day. It causes fatigue, lack of concentration and mood swings that affect work and social relationships.

As well as daytime drowsiness, anxiety or depression, confusion.


There is no real therapy for restless legs syndrome.

Treatment is aimed at reducing stress and helping muscles relax. Hot bathsstretching exercisesmassages or relaxation techniques can help.

To promote relaxation before going to sleep it may be useful to take herbal preparations with calming properties. In the table some examples:

Plant Property
Valerian Hypnotic, anticonvulsant, sedative of the central nervous system
Lemon balm Antispasmodics, sedatives
Passionflower Anxiolytic, sedative
Chamomile Anxiolytic, sedative

Even moderate and regular physical activity can be useful to keep the disease under control.

If sleep is severely disturbed, benzodiazepines may be prescribed as sedatives.

Some experts suggest the use of dopaminergic drugs at different dosages from those used in Parkinson’s disease.

Patients with iron deficiency may be indicated for iron supplementation.

When to consult your doctor

Too much tiredness or periods of particular stress often manifest themselves with difficulty falling asleep and feeling discomfort in the legs: if the episodes are sporadic there is no need to worry.

When, on the contrary, the disorder recurs regularly, it is good to talk about it with the doctor before sleep deprivation or unrestful sleep can affect the quality of life.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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